I’m a big protein fan, because I think we all need just enough to maintain good health, but there are also some protein myths out there I think need to be put to rest. I’d be willing to bet that most people today are pretty confused about protein, and it’s no wonder! We hear more about this macronutrient than any other it seems, even more than fat or carbs recently. One day it’s good for us, and another, it’s leading to cancer. What’s a girl to do? To keep you from fearing or overdoing your intake of this important macronutrient, be sure you stay aware of and understand some of the top protein myths I often hear.
1. Animal Sources Rule
As a vegetarian that’s 99% vegan, one of the worst protein myths that I often hear, is that animal sources of protein are the best sources. Sure, they can be, but they are by no means the best and only choices you have. The best vegan and vegetarian sources of protein are legumes,beans, gluten-free grains like oats and quinoa, raw nuts and seeds, and even leafy greens, which have more protein than most people think. Another top notch source is superfoods like seaweed such as spirulina, which has more protein per ounce than any other food, including beef. As a bonus, plant-based sources of protein are also anti-inflammatory if prepared correctly, and they don’t contain any cholesterol like all animal foods do.
2. Loading up Leads to Weight Loss
One of the top dieting trends out there is loading up on protein to shift the body into fat burning mode. Protein takes more work from your body to digest, therefore digesting it alone raises your metabolism. So, yes, technically speaking, it can help you lose weight, but only short-term. Doing this long-term can actually make you gain weight, suffer poor digestion, cause inflammation and gout, create kidney problems, and could make you have a hard time getting enough nutrients from other foods.
3. Whey Protein is the Best Powder
I’m not against protein powders, but I also don’t believe the popular whey protein is the best source either. Whey protein, in all forms, is the number one selling protein of all powders today. Yes, it does have high biological sources of protein, meaning your body can easily use it to promote lean muscle growth, and repair. Yet, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other protein sources that won’t do the same. When you buy a protein powder, be sure you try to buy a plant-based because animal protein powders are highly processed and acidic to your body which can create inflammation. Think about it this way, how much work does it take to get plant foods ground down to a powder from foods like sprouted grains, sprouted legumes or beans, or raw seeds like hemp and chia? Not too much, right? Especially if these are raw plant proteins, which are preferable. Yet, think about how much work it takes to get dairy milk processed, strained, cooled and preserved, and then separated to create whey and casein as discrete proteins, before they even enter the point where they are dried to make a powder. That sounds like a whole lot of work for a carton of protein powder made from a cow!. Plus, it means my body will have to work that much harder to recognize what the whey protein powder is, which makes it more much acidic and inflammatory. When choosing a protein, don’t think whey is your only option. There are plenty of other sources out there you can choose. Overall, just be sure you avoid any protein powders that have added sugars or artificial ingredients.
4. Powders Are Harmful
On the flip side, a good number of people now believe that protein powders are bad for you. I actually think they are great for several reasons, if they come from a good source. For one, if you don’t digest legumes and beans well, along with most grains, protein powders from raw seeds like hemp, can be a fantastic way to get your protein needs. Plus, choosing a raw, cold-milled protein powder is much healthier than not getting enough protein, or being in pain from trying to digest foods your stomach won’t tolerate. It’s also much cheaper than animal proteins, and easier to digest.
5. You Need to Count Grams
If you’re concerned with counting grams of protein, don’t be. I find it tiring to measure and count everything I eat, so I just let my body tell me when it’s had enough of one nutrient. If you really listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs. I advise eating a source of protein with every meal and snack, reducing the amount appropriately for snacks, and raising the amount at meals. After that, you probably won’t need to count or measure anything, making your meals much more enjoyable as a result.
6. Protein Causes Cancer
A new study shows that animal food sources of protein can lead to cancer, but that’s one myth you can lay to rest. The theory stems from the fact that protein consumption can cause inflammation, and lead to overproduction of cells that lead to cancer. If you eat a mostly plant-based diet, and are careful to choose quality sources of animal protein in moderation, most likely, this won’t be a concern worth your time.
7. It Bulks You up
Here’s one myth I’d like to debunk quickly. Many women today fear eating any protein, out of fear it will make them bulky like a bodybuilder. This simply is not true ladies! In fact, without enough protein, your body will start to eat away at your muscles, which makes you flabby, unhealthy, way too thin, and can cause muscle deterioration, even in your heart. You need protein to maintain a strong body, and don’t worry, it won’t make you bulky unless you’re loading up on steak and beef and pumping iron like Arnold, I promise!
Consuming a variety of all nutrients, protein included, is the best ticket to health, I can promise you that. Ignore these protein myths next time you hear them, and be on with your merry way. If you like protein powders, cheers to you, and if someone tells you that your plant-based foods won’t give you enough protein, you now know what to tell them. What protein myth do you hear the most of these days?